P. Eternal rest grant onto them O Lord,
R. And perpetual light shine upon them.
P. May they rest in peace.
THE HOLY NAME OF MARY
I. IN the year 1683 the Hungarians, having rebelled against the Emperor Leopold I, invited the Turks to come to their assistance, and help them to withstand the forces which their angry Sovereign had prepared to lead against them. In answer to their appeal, the Turks marshaled against the Empire an immense army, consisting of about two hundred thousand men, and after a short time actually laid siege to Vienna. Pope Innocent XL did everything in his power to stop this flood of barbaric invasion. But after his most strenuous efforts, only seventy-four thousand men could be gathered together under the standard of the Cross. Nevertheless, trusting wholly in God, and calling upon the powerful intercession of Mary, Help of Christians, the hero Sobieski led the Christian host against the Infidel, and gained a complete victory over the forces opposed to him. To commemorate so auspicious an event, Innocent instituted, in honour of the Blessed Virgin, a festival, which is called the feast of the Holy name of Mary.
You may, perhaps, be surprised that a festival should be instituted to do honour to her name, and may feel inclined to ask with our great Poet : What's in a name ? Let us try to see, in order that we may appreciate the piety and the wisdom which that act indicates. A name is, as it were, a compendious expression or term which embodies all that is good, or lovable, or odious in the person whom it serves to designate. When it is either whispered in our ear, or written before our eyes, it has a talismanic power, and conjures up before us him whom we love and respect, or him whom we despise and hate. We behold his wisdom, and his generosity, his fidelity, his strict integrity, his tender heart, his open hand in fine, all that makes our blood course quickly through our veins, and our eyes sparkle with pleasure when we call to mind his worth, and the many amiable qualities by which he has endeared himself to us. Or, it tells us of one who is base and mean, selfish, cruel, and vindictive, from whose detestable envy and malice we have suffered much. Then our cheeks either grow pale with fear, or burn with resentment when it is mentioned, and a vision is presented to our eyes, from which we turn away with horror and disgust.
Hence it is that there are names which, when uttered in the assemblies of men, will melt their hearts with tenderness, and bring the glow of honest pride to their cheeks ; they leap to their feet and applaud them to the echo. Again, there are other names, which are received with a loathing and detestation which it is fearful to witness. They raise a very storm of groans and hisses, and disclose to us hatred so intense, so concentrated, that our blood runs cold as we reflect upon it. From this, you see that there is a great deal in a name; and however men may sneer at us for honouring names, they themselves do that which they so foolishly deride. They honour the names of those whom they love, by giving them to their children, by calling their streets and their towns after them, by applying them as titles of distinction to those whose genius they admire. What is this but acknowledging that there is a great deal in a name, and that there are some names which deserve honour, and others which are to be held up to universal execration and scorn.
II. Mary's name is therefore held in high honour among us, and receives from us a reverence inferior only to that which we pay to the greatest of names the sacred and ever blessed name of Our Lord Jesus Christ. For her name is to us all that the names of great heroes, statesmen, generals, and benefactors are to the nation at large, and a great deal more besides. What does it bring before us? It brings out before our mind's eye the image of her, whom Almighty God deemed worthy to be the Mother of Jesus Christ. We remember, as we fondly gaze upon her figure, that the Incarnate God, in the days of His mortal life, looked up to her, loved her, and obeyed her, just as we ourselves obeyed, loved, and reverenced our own dear mother, only with a degree of love of which our feeble natures are incapable. His lips have kissed her face; His arms have been twined round her neck; His head has nestled in her bosom. As then we love Him more than all else more than our life we must love what to Him is so surprisingly dear.
That name Mary tells us of one so faithful in her love to Our God, that she clung to Him in His ignominy and shame, and stood by Him as He hung upon His Cross. It puts before us the image of her, who, as the poet says, is "Our tainted nature's solitary boast." While, therefore, we deem her name so sweet, so lovable, so worthy of honour, we must not forget that it is a name of power with God, and of terror to all His enemies. She obtained from Him, in the days of His mortal life, all that she chose to ask; with much greater reason, therefore, will she be able to do so now that she reigns with Him in glory. She is the Woman who crushed the serpent s head, through the might of that all-powerful One, Whom she gave to the world, and consequently her very name must be a terror to the devils.
When, therefore, you are assailed by these enemies of your salvation, call upon that holy name ; it will remind them of the Almighty arm which crushed their strength, and ground it into dust beneath His chariot-wheels. It will bring before your mind a most sweet image of holy purity, of the tenderness and undying ardour of a mother s love. It will inspire your heart with unwavering fidelity to God. It will be to you a tower of strength against the face of your enemies.
III. Therefore, as men pay honour to the names of those whom they love, and manifest it in various ways, so also does God desire us to honour the name of His Mother. If you wish to know in what way you should do this, look around you, and see what men do to honour a name. If it is the name of the nation s hero, it is received with acclamations of applause and delight. If it is that of a beloved child, or of a revered parent, the eye kindles with love and the heart beats with pleasure when it is mentioned. People call their streets and their squares, their ships and even their societies by the name of him whom they love. If a suppliant ask them for a favour in the name of a child, or a father, or a dear friend, they will do deeds of mercy, out of the love which they bear to that child, or that father, or that friend. Their anger is appeased, their firmly-set purpose is changed, the treasury of their money is opened wide by the magical power which lies in the names of those whom they love.
Will it not be so, think you, with Our good God, if we make our petitions to Him in the name of her whom He loves so well ? Will He be able to refuse us anything, if we be lovers of that sweet Mother, and do her homage? Certainly not. We have not a God Who cannot feel as man feels. He has a human heart, and is touched by whatever appeals to human sympathies. He will love those who love His Mother, and be generous to those who strive to do her honour.
Therefore, always reverence that holy Mother, and hold her name in benediction. Bow your head slightly when it is mentioned ; utter it with respect; frequently use it, to recall to your mind an image of all that is most pure, most holy, most tender, and most endearing in human nature. Use it when harassed by temptation, when oppressed with gloom, when burdened with sorrow. Especially use it when you kneel to ask some favour from Jesus, the source of all grace. Remind Him of her who is your Mother and your advocate with Him. Ask that kind, good, merciful Jesus, through the love which He has for Mary, to grant your petition. By doing this, you perform an act pleasing to Him, because you acknowledge that you are unworthy even to approach to Him; that you do not dare to present your petition, unless it is signed with the name of her whose slightest wish He never refused to obey. In fine, cherish in your heart so tender a devotion to her, that, like those who love in this world, the name of your beloved Mother may be, metaphorically speaking, written upon your heart, and then it will rise frequently to your lips, and be pronounced with that respect and that love which are its due.
Source: Lectures for Boys, Vol I, 1896
Two coloring pictures for the children can be found below.